Magic Wand

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In this activity about light and perception, learners create pictures in thin air. Using a simple set up of a slide projector, slide, moveable screen or poster board, and a "wand", learners investigate how we see projected images such as those from movies and television. Use this activity to help learners understand concepts associated with light and optics including persistence of vision, reflection, and map projection.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Type:


Materials List (per group of students)

  • A slide projector
  • A 35 mm slide
  • A moveable screen (piece of white poster board will do)
  • A pencil, wooden dowel, or meter stick


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Technology
  • Life Sciences
    • Human Body
      • The Brain and Nervous System
    • Human Senses and Perception
      • Vision
      • Perception
  • Physical Sciences
    • Vibration and Waves
      • Light and Optics
    • Light and Optics
      • Reflection and Refraction

Informal Categories

  • Photography and Film/Video


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Links STEM to other topics of interest such as arts and humanities
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



Funding Sources:

  • National Science Foundation
  • California Department of Education
  • NEC Foundation of America